Image: Lacewing

Lacewing

Lacewing, line drawing.

Creator:
Andrew Howells
Rights:
© Australian Museum

Notes

 

What do lacewings look like?

Size:
  • Wingspan 5 mm - 150 mm.
Body:
  • Column-like or widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders) and tapering past this point.
  • Body appears soft and fragile.
Antennae:
  • Thread-like or bead-like, and has many segments.
  • Sometimes variously thickened with a well-defined club.
  • Length highly variable.
Eyes:
  • Large, bulging and well separated.
     
Mouthparts:
  • For chewing or munching; long palps (mouthparts that look like a 'chain of beads').
  • Held downwards at rest.
Wings:
  • Two pairs.
  • Both pairs are membranous, clear and have numerous cross-veins forming many cells.
  • Both pairs have forked veins along wing margin.
  • Length, width and shape variable.
  • At rest wings held tent-like over body.
Limbs:
  • Six slender legs.
Abdomen tip:
  • Cerci (tails) absent.

Where are lacewings found?

  • Just about anywhere.

What do lacewings do?

  • They are solitary but they may group together or swarm during mating.
  • When disturbed they usually fly away. Other possible responses include threat displays where they pretend to sting with their abdomen (they do not have stings), and emitting noxious-smelling chemicals.
  • They are weak, flapping fliers.
  • Those species of lacewing that feed as adults are generally predators, though some feed on honeydew or pollen.
  • They are active during the night or day - some strongly attracted to light.

Atypical lacewings

  • Dusty wings (family Coniopterygidae) are unlike other lacewings as their wings have few veins and they may not have forked veins along margin. Furthermore their bodies are covered with a waxy secretion. Otherwise other features of the order apply. They are small with a wingspan less than 15mm.
  • Mantis flies (family Mantispidae) are lacewings despite their name. They are characterised by having raptorial forelegs similar to praying mantids. Furthermore they may even behave like a mantid, otherwise all the other features apply.
  • Moth Lacewings (family Ithonidae) are characterised by wings hairy along veins and margins and appear moth like. Otherwise other features of the order apply.

What looks similar?

  • Dragonflies and Damselflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Dragonflies and Damselflies can be distinguished by having bristle-like antennae and wings that lack forked veins along margins.
  • Stoneflies can be separated from lacewings by having a pair of cerci extending from abdomen tip and wings held flat to or wrapped around body.
  • Caddisflies maybe confused with Moth Lacewings however caddisflies can be distinguished as their wings are entirely hairy and have little or no cross-veins.
  • Alderflies and dobsonflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Alderflies and dobsonflies however lack forked veins along wing margin and their hindwing has a large lobe at base.
  • Praying mantids maybe confused with mantis flies. However praying mantids unlike mantis flies lack wings or if present are leathery, cloudy and held flat over their body. Furthermore they have a triangular head, and their hindwing folds away like a hand fan.
  • Scorpionflies are sometimes confused with lacewings. Scorpionflies are generally separated from all other groups by a beak-like extension of their head, with the mouthparts located at its tip. However in some lacewings the head may also appear to be extended, though never to the extent of a scorpionfly. In these circumstances scorpionflies can be distinguished by lacking the forked veins along margins of their wings.
  • Moths can be confused with moth lacewings. Moths can be distinguished as they have curled tubular mouthparts or mouthparts reduced or absent; their bodies are covered in easily removed scales rather than hair; and their wings lack numerous cross-veins.

Additional information

Size:
Wingspan 5 mm - 150 mm.
Body:
Column-like or widest at wing attachment (wide shoulders) and tapering past this point.
Body appears soft and fragile.
Antennae:
Thread-like or bead-like, and has many segments.
Sometimes variously thickened with a well-defined club.
Length highly variable.
Eyes:
Large, bulging and well separated.
Mouthparts:
For chewing or munching; long palps (mouthparts that look like a 'chain of beads').
Held downwards at rest.
Wings:
Two pairs.
Both pairs are membranous, clear and have numerous cross-veins forming many cells.
Both pairs have forked veins along wing margin.
Length, width and shape variable.
At rest wings held tent-like over body.
Limbs:
Six slender legs.
Abdomen tip:
Cerci (tails) absent.
Where are lacewings found?
Just about anywhere.
What do lacewings do?
They are solitary but they may group together or swarm during mating.
When disturbed they usually fly away. Other possible responses include threat displays where they pretend to sting with their abdomen (they do not have stings), and emitting noxious-smelling chemicals.
They are weak, flapping fliers.
Those species of lacewing that feed as adults are generally predators, though some feed on honeydew or pollen.
They are active during the night or day - some strongly attracted to light.
Atypical lacewings
Dusty wings (family Coniopterygidae) are unlike other lacewings as their wings have few veins and they may not have forked veins along margin. Furthermore their bodies are covered with a waxy secretion. Otherwise other features of the order apply. They are small with a wingspan less than 15mm.
Mantis flies (family Mantispidae) are lacewings despite their name. They are characterised by having raptorial forelegs similar to praying mantids. Furthermore they may even behave like a mantid, otherwise all the other features apply.
Moth Lacewings (family Ithonidae) are characterised by wings hairy along veins and margins and appear moth like. Otherwise other features of the order apply.
What looks similar?
Dragonflies and Damselflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Dragonflies and Damselflies can be distinguished by having bristle-like antennae and wings that lack forked veins along margins.
Stoneflies can be separated from lacewings by having a pair of cerci extending from abdomen tip and wings held flat to or wrapped around body.
Caddisflies maybe confused with Moth Lacewings however caddisflies can be distinguished as their wings are entirely hairy and have little or no cross-veins.
Alderflies and dobsonflies that are preserved may be confused with lacewings. Alderflies and dobsonflies however lack forked veins along wing margin and their hindwing has a large lobe at base.
Praying mantids maybe confused with mantis flies. However praying mantids unlike mantis flies lack wings or if present are leathery, cloudy and held flat over their body. Furthermore they have a triangular head, and their hindwing folds away like a hand fan.
Scorpionflies are sometimes confused with lacewings. Scorpionflies are generally separated from all other groups by a beak-like extension of their head, with the mouthparts located at its tip. However in some lacewings the head may also appear to be extended, though never to the extent of a scorpionfly. In these circumstances scorpionflies can be distinguished by lacking the forked veins along margins of their wings.
Moths can be confused with moth lacewings. Moths can be distinguished as they have curled tubular mouthparts or mouthparts reduced or absent; their bodies are covered in easily removed scales rather than hair; and their wings lack numerous cross-veins.

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